Can Exercise Help with IBS Symptoms?

Published on: 11/13/2023

You may already know that exercise has countless health benefits. It can help with stress management, and improve cardiovascular health, sleep, and overall quality of life. But can exercise also help improve IBS symptoms? The answer is a resounding yes!

Benefits of Exercise for IBS

A large body of evidence suggests that physical exercise can improve overall IBS symptoms. It is a great addition to your toolkit of IBS management strategies (such as the low FODMAP diet and gut-directed hypnotherapy). 

IBS is a disorder of the gut-brain interaction. This means miscommunication between the gut and the brain can lead to painful gut symptoms and bowel irregularity. Exercise can normalize that communication and lead to improvement in overall symptoms. In addition, moving our body stimulates movement in the gastrointestinal tract, and improves constipation. 

Best Types of Exercise for IBS

The best kind of exercise is the one you enjoy the most, as you will be more likely to continue doing it. However, moderate-intensity types of exercises are often the most recommended for people with IBS

These include walking, hiking, yoga, pilates, tai chi, and qigong. These types of activity have been shown to help relieve bloating, gas, and other IBS symptoms and ease constipation. 

Should You Avoid Certain Types of Exercise with IBS?

If moderate-intensity exercise is beneficial for relieving IBS symptoms, what about more vigorous types of exercise such as running or HIIT? When it comes to IBS, increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts can put stress on the body. 

That’s because exercising takes blood away from the gastrointestinal tract. It prioritizes sending it to the muscles of the arms and legs, so you can perform better. For some people, this could lead to diarrhea or abdominal cramps.

Indeed, research shows that moderate-intensity exercise can relieve IBS symptoms better than vigorous exercise. But it is also important to individualize exercise recommendations for each person. For example, I had a client who was an ultra-marathon runner and felt at her best when she was running. 

It is also important to individualize the type of exercise to how you are feeling. If you are in a flare, you may want to take extra care of yourself and prioritize gentle types of exercise like yoga or tai chi. If you are feeling at your best, you could experiment with jogging or cycling.

Bottom Line

Exercising regularly can benefit people with IBS. Exercise is a great tool for stress reduction and can ease symptoms like bloating gas, and constipation. Choosing the kind of exercise you enjoy, and tailoring it to your current state of well-being is key to reaping the most benefits. 

Do you need more help with finding relief from life-disrupting IBS symptoms? Let’s chat!

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MEET ANTONELLA
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I’m a registered dietitian with a passion for helping women with IBS find their way back to eating without fear of painful gut symptoms and without unnecessary diet restrictions.

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